Touring St Martin (and food glorious food)..

Up bright and early wanting to make the most of having a car to explore….so had a quick shower and we were on our way. First stop was for breakfast. What fantastic pastries and coffee – has to be done whilst in a French territory!

Filled up to the brim we headed off into the hills. We wanted to go to Peak Paradis… and eventually found the small road leading to it – not helped by the pretty poor signage and sketchy road map! This minor road barely had room for two cars to pass – but at least it was tarmac… At which point we picked up a local guy who flagged us down – he was going up to the big houses in the mountains to do some gardening work and wanted a lift. Against my better judgment – being the suspicious one of us – Richard stopped and gave him a lift. Actually he was a really nice chatty old man and I felt bad about not trusting him initially.

After dropping him off we run out of tarmac and are now on mud / stones only going up into the forest. Then we came across a wide bit – big enough to turn round – and I wanted to turn back as the road ahead was just one big vertical muddy pot hole and I wasn’t sure our little runabout would cope. Richard got out and went for a wander to check what lay ahead – and he said that it got worse and turned virtually into a footpath suitable only for mountain goats. So we turned around and went back to the original viewing platform. This is really a beautiful place.

Coming back down we went to Loterie Farm with the intention of swimming in their spring-fed freshwater pool and laze for a short while. But they wanted €20 or $28 each for the privilege. I guess if you were staying for the afternoon it was worth it – but we thought for an hour or so it was a bit steep so declined and had a diet coke in their beautiful lounge area before moving on. This Farm also has zip wires, mountain hikes and high altitude jungle paths through the treetops – none of which interested us this time round. Must be getting old or something!

Moving on we drove to Grand Case – this is the gastronomic centre of French St Martin – so we thought this would be the perfect place for a late lunch. What a delight. Nice sandy beaches and a long road full of restaurants – all very chic and some Conran style while others were more rustic with BBQ offerings….so catering for all sizes of wallet.

We decided to go with the menu we fancied most and ended up in a beautiful restaurant overlooking the beach / anchorage. We had a fantastic lunch – mine was roasted mahi mahi on a confit of tomatoes with Serrano ham. Richard’s was a Caribbean fish pot with mussels, fish and lobster. Amazing – topped off with a glass of Chablis. Well – actually – I drank 1 ½ glasses as Richard was driving and they were generous measures!

Back in the car we went to Friar’s Bay and took the hike through to Happy Beach. One of the guys we had met in the marina said that this was the most beautiful secluded place….and worth the 15 mins walk over the headland. We arrived – and the place was busy with a large contingent of nudists. He forgot to mention that bit! Richard got in the mood by stripping off to change into his swimmers while I struggled behind a towel to change – much to his amusement. Had a nice chilled few hours bobbing (with water) on the beach and watching all the goings on. Richard had quite a lot to look at – all I got was middle-aged old men with pot bellies showing off their less than impressive bits!

Back across the headland again to pick up the car and we headed back to the marina. It was around sixish and the marina is pretty well lit so we took the opportunity of having an unlimited supply of fresh water to give Morphie a bath. She thoroughly enjoyed getting rid of her encrusted salt crystals! Job done – also did some laundry – and then had a quiet night on board with a late evening snack of crackers and cheese and nice French wine to round off the day.

Up early – the car has to be back by 11 am – so headed straight over to the Dutch side to Budget Marine to get new drinking glasses for Morphie. All of them were pretty manky after four years in charter – so it was great to get new sparkly ones just for us. Job done and then we went to the bakery to get our fresh bread. Managed to shop in French without a word of English or hysterical laughter – accent must be getting better!

Back on board and slipped out of the marina into Marigot Bay where we anchored up again. We wanted to get some petrol but the marina only sold diesel – so Richard dinked round into the lagoon to the local petrol station. He was gone for quite a while…. and I realised that we really should think this through in future and make sure that he has at least his phone or our handheld VHF with him!

Anyway…lesson learnt…and eventually he came back. With a sheepish look on his face when I asked him how much it cost for 15 litres of petrol… What? €50? Seriously? Anyway….he then told me the tale. He picked up the pump that said Gasoline – it had a black hose – so he thought it was petrol. After a while some guy asked him why he was filling up dink with diesel? Ooops….so he had to empty both the tank and the spare can into a big drum…and start again, remembering to mix in the two-stroke oil. I thought it was funny…. Men eh? Just can’t ask for help when they might just need it!

Time to leave – we are going to take Morphie around to Grand Case which is only about 6 miles away, although an upwind slog, so we’ll probably do closer to 9 by the time we get there. Motored through the anchorage and out into the channel and got our sails up. Having been hit by poor forecasting before, we were very cautious and put reefs in our sails. Good job we did – first gust topped 29 knots. The waves were picking up at around 7 feet and swells were breaking and rolling down the channel… Made for a pretty exciting, fast and lively sail – if not a little wet and poor Morphie is covered in salt again already…Anchored up and realised there is a flight path just to the side of us for light aircraft coming into land. Nothing was marked on the chart either.

We went ashore late afternoon for happy hour in one of the beach fronted bars….and came back to the dock to find two policemen waiting for everyone as they wanted boats to move out of the way of the planes. Luckily they said Morphie was OK in her position but he asked us to go tell the offending boats to move – great! Anyway we did as requested and the people did as they were told – although the sight of the police on the dock with guns and crossed arms may have helped the message get across…

A quiet night on board and early to bed. Going to stay here tomorrow and plan our next adventure.

Bye for now